Editorial: Ending jailbreak in Nigeria

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Nigeria is facing one of its worst security moments in the history of the country as an independent nation. Even during the three years civil war, some parts of the country were still relatively safe, leaving parts of what is now known as the south-east and the south-south as the war zone. Today, the insecurity is palpable; it can be felt in the air. There is no inch of the country that is safe. To make the matters worse, the borderlines are also porous making the country volatile for terrorists and criminally minded individuals to set their base in borderlines with neighbouring countries and operate in the country.

To add to this, is the current trend of jailbreak. Nigerians were shocked to the marrow in July when a breakaway faction of the Boko Haram terrorist group, Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) invaded the Kuje Medium Security Custodial Centre. Based on the government details, 879 detainees escaped including 68 imprisoned Boko Haram members. Although the government revealed that half of the escapees have been recaptured, the fact that a group of terrorists wreaking havoc in northeast Nigeria would match on the nation’s capital in North-central and brazenly freed their members with little efforts leaves a sour taste in the mouth of the current administration.

We are yet to come to terms with the stunning reality that in less than eight years of Buhari’s administration, there have been not less than 15 jailbreaks.

Barely has the country entered the New Year that the first jailbreak of 2022 happened. Three inmates of the Mandala Custodial Centre of the Nigerian Correctional Service in Ilorin, Kwara State escaped from the centre. The three escapees were a death row prisoner, Umaru Altine, who was convicted for armed robbery; and two others, Segun Nasiru and Isa Usman, who were both charged with armed robbery and were awaiting trial.

In May, during a heavy downpour that led to the collapse of the perimeter fence of the Agbor Custodial Centre, three inmates were reported to have escaped.

Under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria has experienced 15 successful jailbreaks with about 7,000 inmates freed. In October 2020, three jailbreak happened; Oko correctional facility in Edo state was attacked during the EndSARS protest; another facility in Benin was attacked that same month with 1,993 in total escaped from the two facilities. Towards the end of the month that year, Okitipupa facility in Ondo state, experienced jail break with 58 inmate let loose.

In April 4, 2021, the Owerri correctional facility jailbreak happened and 1,844 inmates escaped. Five months later, on September 13, 2021, Kabba prison in Kogi state experienced jailbreak and 240 inmates stole their freedom.

837 inmates, on October 22, 2021 escaped in Abolongo facility, Oyo state and in July 2021, in Jos Maximum security prison, four inmates escaped. In November of the same year, Jos medium security prison was attacked while 10 inmates were killed in the cause of the attack, 262 inmates escaped.

In the wake of the series of jailbreaks in 2021, the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, assured Nigerians that the government would up its game and would “prevent any such opportunistic attack and even make it impossible… we are working with all arms of government particularly the security to make our custodial facilities impregnable. We will not rest until that is achieved, that is the assurance I want to give Nigerians.

With his assurance, jailbreaks refused to cease and the perpetrators were more emboldened.

Impact News believes that the problem with Nigeria’s correctional facilities system is enormous and there is need to invest sincere and concrete commitment in tackling it. The prison facilities in Nigeria are built to house not more than 50,000 but these facilities are overcrowded with 70,000 inmates spread across the 253 centres in the country. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the Nigerian correctional service facilities were overcrowded by34.2% in 2016 and the overcrowding has increased by 12% in 2022 to 48%.

IMPACT News wondered why in spite the annual appropriation for Prison Biometrics, Arms, Ammunitions and other security equipment that runs into billions, it has not translated into stoppage of these serial jailbreaks and attacks on correctional facilities across the country.

To stop this trend, there is need for accountability on Nigeria’s investment on the correctional facilities and its operations in the country. We are sure, a public enquiry into the financial and budgetary implementation of the facilities would open cans of worms. Yet we need to start from somewhere for us to get to the root cause of these jailbreaks. We are sure the solution lies at the root cause.

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